Inside Boohoo’s planned Leicester super-factory

Photographs reveal what it looks like inside a former car showroom which Boohoo wants to turn into its UK production base.

The online fashion retailer wants to create a flagship factory in Leicester inside a run-down and overgrown former Vauxhall garage on the northern outskirts of the city.

Some 40 per cent of its products already come from Leicester, and chief executive John Lyttle has said the site would have capacity to make up to 50,000 items a week, working in partnership with an existing manufacturer.

If it gains planning the business expects to create around 90 jobs within the Thurmaston Lane factory.

It would give Boohoo closer control of its stock and allow it to hit the short lead times demanded by fast fashion trends.

Last year Mr Lyttle said the factory was part of a plan to copy the success of Spanish fashion giant and Zara owner Inditex.

The images have been published as part of a planning application for the site.

The application states: “The newly proposed use seeks to completely rejuvenate the site, with the intention to reuse the entirety of the building for office accommodation and light industrial processing activities including the manufacture, test and quality control of clothing items.”

Boohoo also wants to set up an education centre on the site as well as a gallery to show off designs by students from Leicester’s university and colleges.

There could also be co-working spaces for charities and trade associations to use.

The application says: “The proposals will ensure that a disused building is improved and brought up to the standards of modern needs and occupation.

“Ensuring the continued occupation of the building for future development will also safeguard the protection of career opportunities and local assets for future generations within Leicester.

“The proposed alterations and improvements to the building are believed to be of minor, if any, impact on the existing structure.

“All repairs and alterations will be carried out to the highest standards by skilled tradespeople; new alterations to both the exterior and interior will be sensitive to the building and be of a high design quality in form and materiality.”

Manchester-headquartered Boohoo includes the BoohooMAN, PrettyLittleThing, Nasty Gal, MissPap, Karen Millen and coast brands.

The latest development comes after a workers’ rights group Liberty Shared announced it was lobbying the US customs department to ban the import of Boohoo clothes.

It follows allegations of poor working conditions at some Leicester subcontractors making clothes destined for Boohoo.

Any restrictions on Boohoo sales to the States would have a huge impact on its business.

It had revenues of £1.2 billion in its last full trading year – with more than £263 million of that coming from the US.

Boohoo says it has been working hard to ensure all the clothes it sells come from factories that look after their staff and pay them properly.

It has been telling UK suppliers to stop sub-contracting to smaller firms which might be putting profits before working conditions.

Boohoo came under the spotlight when a Sunday Times undercover reporter found work in a Leicester factory making clothes destined for it, which he said was paying workers £3.50 an hour – well below the minimum wage.

Following the allegations Boohoo set up an independent inquiry into supplier working conditions, headed by senior lawyer Alison Levitt QC.

Her findings said the fast fashion chain knew about “serious issues” with the treatment of factory workers in Leicester in December 2019, but failed to move quickly enough to do anything about it.

Boohoo wants to turn this derelict car dealership into a flagship factory
(Image: architecture: m)

Leicester is a key supplier to Boohoo. The city employs something like 10,000 people in fashion and textiles, in around 1,500 businesses.

Shared Liberty said allegations of labour violations in the Leicester textiles sector, particularly in Leicester East, dated back to the early 2000s.

US Customs and Border Protection told BusinessLive it does not comment on investigations.

A Boohoo spokesman said it was confident that it met US customs standards on preventing products made using forced labour entering the US.

It said: “Boohoo continues to fulfil orders to customers in the US across all of its brands.

“The group will work with any competent authority to provide assurance that products from its supply chain meet the required standard.

“Over the past eight months the group has been working closely with UK enforcement bodies.

“If the group were to discover any suggestion of modern day slavery it would immediately disclose this to the relevant authorities.”

It said Alison Levitt QC’s review into Boohoo’s Leicester supply chain suggested there was no evidence that Boohoo committed any criminal offences.

It said action it had taken since 2019 included completing more than 400 on-site checks on its UK suppliers and removing 64 suppliers from the its UK supplier list which did not meet its transparency standards.

Business Live – North West